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Junior Achievement From Bogota to New York

We asked Junior Achievement of New York Fellow, Sandra Wilson, to tell us about her JA story. Sandra joined us as not only a former JA Colombia employee, but a JA alumnus! Check out her story!
 
My name is Sandra Wilson, and I’m from Bogota, Colombia. I moved to the New York City area less than two years ago. It has been an enormous challenge but an amazing one. First of all, looking for a job in my field was difficult. Even though I have the skills and experience in my native country that make me qualified for positions, I found many barriers here, such the language, the job culture, and finding the right opportunity. The good thing is that Junior Achievement has made a really big impact and helped me achieve my goals since I was a little girl. 
 
I remember the time when I was in fourth grade and my teacher Mrs. Pilar Gaitan told the whole class that we were going to have a special guest for six weeks one day each week. “WOW!” I said to myself. “I would be lucky if the visitor comes when gym class is scheduled, because I hated gym class!” I remember seeing my friends’ faces glow with happiness each day that the volunteer arrived. He carried a nice JA briefcase with hands-on materials. It was such a great time! 
 
From 1999 to 2002 I received Colombia Emprededora’s program, which was JA’s curriculum in Colombia. Those programs really opened my mind – I learned concepts for life and tips that I might have in mind when I am heading into the workforce. I am so grateful and happy with my school for accepting JA. 
 
However, the story doesn’t end there! In 2011 while I was attending college, I volunteered in JA Colombia organizing a Job Shadow event. It came about because my sister Carolina was working for JA Colombia and introduced me to the President of the organization.  At that time I really reconnected with JA. 
 
In 2013 after I achieved my Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, I started working at Junior Achievement Colombia as a Project Coordinator. For three years working in Junior Achievement Colombia, I recognized the power of network, leadership, and soft skills that I have used throughout my life. I was so happy to see how I had grown during my time in that role. In the beginning, I was in charge of the basic programs, and then I coordinated programs with a higher level of responsibility. 
 
One of my favorite programs was “Key: La llave que abre tu futuro” (The key that opens your future). It is a program that runs for four months with a certain number of students in high school. The students attend four camping trips for two days each outside of the city where they learn the hard and soft skills that are involved in all three JA pillars: financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and work readiness. I became a facilitator for young people! In 2014, I also had the opportunity to attend to the “COY: Company of the Year” in Ecuador with the students that had excellent business ideas and graduated from the Key program that year. I also met JA staff members from other countries whom I am still in contact with. 
 
I arrived in America in May 2017, and today, I can say that I am used living in New York. Waking in the Big Apple is no longer just a dream! I am living it! I am very grateful for the JA New York team that gave me the opportunity to work as a Fellow for the Mobile Finance Park program since last November. 
 
I love experiencing life in NYC, and I have been participating in JA’s events and activities that I used to attend in my country but in Spanish. For example, I’ve taught “JA Ourselves” and “Our City” curricula here and in Colombia. It’s been a huge learning experience.
 
The most important thing for me is to show and share with people that JA is more than a global organization. It is an organization that helps people develop skills for life, achieve goals, and learn the importance of making an impact in new generations. I love being part of Junior Achievement!
 
 -- Sandra Wilson, JA New York Fellow, 2018-2019
                               
 

JA New York from Civic Corps Member, Lynnette Dent

Lynnette Dent is a member of Civic Corps, a division of NYC Service, working with Junior Achievement of New York for the 2018-19 year as a Programs Associate, helping to bring JA programming to the 90,000 students we serve across all regions.

We asked Lynnette to share her favorite parts about working the JA New York so far. Here's what she told us:

I have been working at Junior Achievement of New York for four months as part of the NYC Civic Corps Program. I am a program associate and I assist the program team by coordinating volunteers at events at schools throughout the city.

One major Junior Achievement program is JA Finance Park, a capstone project for students in grades seven through twelve. The program is for students to learn the skills to create and manage a monthly budget. They are randomly given an adult profile with a job and family, and they have to pay all their expenses within one month. Our volunteers act as financial advisors for the students so they can make the best decisions for their futures. I recently assisted at JA Finance Park for a day, and it was really rewarding to watch the students make proper decisions on a micro level. This can be directly translated into their daily lives. It was an amazing experience to see volunteers use their life experiences to educate young minds about creating futures of financial freedom.

The volunteers that I meet through this program are very helpful and they come in to teach kids who they have never met. They do not have any experience teaching, but they come and inspire students for five hours by sharing how they advanced in their careers.

When I walk into the Park or a classroom during a program event, I like that I see everyone smiling and laughing. The students always seem so happy to engage in this new experience since it is something different for them to do in school. The children always make me so proud because I get to learn from them as well.

Since I have been working for Junior Achievement of New York, I have learned valuable skills and have gained beneficial knowledge about working at a non-profit. It has been such a great learning experience for me. Junior Achievement helps many students across the city and I hope that it continues to prosper as an organization for years to come.

Meet Patricia Williams, Junior Achievement Alumna

We chatted with Patricia Williams, an alumna of Junior Achievement of New York. Here’s what she told us about her experiences and how they shaped who she is today:

I began with Junior Achievement of New York in elementary school and continued as a representative of my junior high school to participate in JA’s Job Shadow program, a program that thrives today.

I am a living example of the power of early experiences facilitated by Junior Achievement to shape not only one’s career, but one’s life. Remarkable as it seems, I dove right into the corporate world at the young age of 12 years old.  Two to three times a week, I navigated my way through the city via public transit to “shadow” real-life corporate staff.  I relied on my intelligence, self-discipline, and resourcefulness to negotiate my way through my first JA Job Shadow opportunity with Junior Achievement of New York.

I still remember my first skill: filing hard copy documents for a downtown corporation. Working in a corporate office as a file clerk preceded the advent of today’s computer age. I was delighted to have the opportunity to get the experiences made possible by JA New York. As a young teen, despite the pressure I felt as the only African American in the office, I was inspired.

Who would think that filing documents manually would seed my invaluable organizational skills that would serve me so well in many professional positions throughout my career? 

Guided along the way by mentors and volunteers from JA along with the support of my mother and grandmother, my self-confidence kept me on course. Eager and well-prepared, I went on to college, graduate school and a Juris Doctor degree program. I have three children and enjoy a fulfilling, multi-faceted career. I firmly believe that my experiences with JA played a major role in setting goals and achieving successful accomplishments.

I have always felt these experiences through the JA programs enhanced my ability to be self-sufficient and raise my three children who would each grow up to become entrepreneurs. You can dream forever, but you have to have concrete plans to achieve those dreams. Junior Achievement inspired me to pursue my dreams and turn them into reality.

 

Copyright P. Williams, 2019. All rights reserved.

 

 

JA New York from Civic Corps Member, Jamal Merveil

Jamal Merveil is a member of Civic Corps, a division of NYC Service, working with Junior Achievement of New York for the 2018-19 year as a Programs Associate, helping to bring JA programming to the 90,000 students we serve across all regions.

 

We asked Jamal to share his favorite parts about working with JA New York so far. Here’s what he told us:

Working with JA New York has been one of my most fulfilling work experiences to date.  When I first started, I didn’t expect to be so emotionally involved with the programs that we offer schools around New York City. Being able to work with students who feel that being financially literate is important gives me so much pleasure, and knowing that my work has a deeper purpose and what I am teaching will be carried on past my 10 months of service is huge.

Since beginning my time at Junior Achievement in September, my favorite program has been the Microsoft Job Shadow. We’ve been able to expose students who probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity if they weren’t part of Junior Achievement to the tech industry at a young age. When students first enter the Microsoft flagship store on 5th Avenue, you can see the small twinkle in their eyes grow and feel how excited they are to be exposed to what Microsoft has to offer. Students are able to use firsthand the new virtual reality technology that’s being produced for private companies, and they have the opportunity to interact with Microsoft’s new Personal Assistant, Pepper who answers any questions you have for her.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Junior Achievement this year, JA New York said that we have a goal of reaching 100,000 students this year, and when I heard that, I knew that I had to bring the program home. My first thought when hearing that was I needed to reach out to my elementary and middle school to let them know that there is an amazing opportunity for their students. I made the call, and we set up a meeting with the Assistant Principal, math coach, and parent teacher coordinator. The rest is history: JA will be in my elementary school this winter starting in three classes. My next goal is to facilitate an ongoing relationship with a corporate company and the middle school, so stay tuned for that! By the time my year of service with JA New York is complete, I would like for JA to have partnered with the neighboring high school and elementary/middle school on the Frank Padavan Campus. With this, I will be sure that I have made a real difference in the lives of the kids from my own community.

EY Connect Day: As Told by JA New York Associates

On Friday, October 5th, 2018, over 600 volunteers from Ernst & Young delivered Junior Achievement programming across 8 school partners, reaching over 4,500 students from Kindergarten to 12th grade. This incredible array of JA in a Day is part of EY's annual day of service, EY Connect Day, during which employees all over the country participate in volunteer activities with hundreds of non-profit organizations.
 
We asked two of our new Program Associates, Emma Ross and Cara Minnix, to tell us about their experience during their first EY Connect Day. Check out what they said:
 
Emma Ross
My first EY Connect Day was an impressive and inspiring event. I was working with the students and staff at PS 197. At the beginning of the day, you could sense the excitement and nervousness of the volunteers as they quickly reviewed their materials for the lessons and discussed plans with their co-teachers. As I walked around the classrooms later in the morning and afternoon, I could see that their nervousness had melted away into the energy and passion that translated into their teaching. This passion and enthusiasm made the lessons come alive and engage students. You could see how happy each volunteer was to participate in the event and the effect that a volunteer had on the students’ learning.
 
The students of PS 197 have a great deal of experience with EY and Junior Achievement. Every year EY comes to their school and builds their knowledge of work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy. Despite their continued exposure, you could see their students excited to be learning with EY again. You can see the pride shining in their eyes as they were answering questions, talking with the volunteers, and completing the activities. The students were excited to demonstrate their knowledge and abilities to the EY volunteers. The event taught the students not only about finance and entrepreneurship, but also that the students' ideas and learning mattered to more than just their family, their school, and themselves. EY Connect Day demonstrated the best of the Junior Achievement program. Beyond simply educating students, it teaches them their power within the community and society. Each grade level, each activity, and each opportunity provides students with the knowledge they need to take control of their financial future. In one day, EY volunteers had the opportunity to make a fundamental difference in a child's perception of their role in the world. 
 
As a new member of the Junior Achievement team, EY Connect Day was a spectacular experience. I was able to see the effect of the Junior Achievement program in person. Furthermore, I was able to see the personal impact the program had on volunteers and students. After they completed their time at PS 197, many volunteers were asking about more opportunities to work with the school and Junior Achievement. The students and teachers asked when we were coming in again. The day encapsulated the best of the Junior Achievement mission and programs and left me excited for future opportunities.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cara Minnix
My first day at Junior Achievement of New York was September 10, 2018. Less than one month later, I found myself in charge of a JA Day at a high school during one of our biggest service days of the year, EY Connect Day. Even though I am a brand new Programs Associate, EY serves so many students at so many different schools in one day every year that all hands are on deck. This means that people who still can’t figure out how to connect their work computer to the WiFi in their apartment end up as the main JA person at some schools. In my case, I was stationed at Urban Assembly School of Business for Young Women.
 
Arguably the biggest challenge of the day was faced at the very beginning. The school is located in the heart of the Financial District, which means we had to dodge around tourists trying to see the “Charging Bull” statue in order to get to the school. The main entrance is somewhat hard to find, and once you’re in the lobby, you have to fight against waves of students from the three different schools in the building to get into an elevator to take you to the correct floor. Once everyone managed to get to the library, it was pretty much smooth sailing.
 
Luckily for me, EY has been doing this event for many years, so all of our coordinators are seasoned pros. The EY leaders at my school were immensely helpful with organizing the volunteers, making certain everyone was in the right room at the right time, and ensuring we all ate way too much pizza during lunch.  I expected my day to be stressful and frantic, but because of the diligence of everyone at EY, it was stress-free and calm. We even had every single one of our volunteers show up, and no one forgot their bright yellow shirt!
 
I spent most of my day walking around to various classes to observe, wearing a large nametag to guarantee I did not get mistaken for a student (we were in a high school, after all). Every single time I went into a classroom, students and volunteers alike were engaged in what they were doing. Though some classes made it through the material faster than others, it was clear that the students were interested in what the volunteers were trying to teach and the volunteers cared what the students had to say. Because I was in a high school, there is a lot of freedom to have discussions within the curriculum. One of my favorite things to see throughout the day was students who had a ton of questions for their volunteers about what their jobs are and how they got there. Many students do not get to interact with adults who have careers that are different from their teachers or family members, so being able to speak freely with their volunteers gives them a new perspective on what they might do in the future. 
 
Being able to see firsthand how students react to JA programs is an incredible experience. You can read through the curriculum as many times as you want, but it truly does not compare to seeing students experience it with real volunteers who genuinely care about helping the students. It’s hard to measure the impact of just one day on a student, but based on what I saw in the classrooms, these young women will be better able to take on the world after some of these lessons. Plus, it’s hilarious to see a bunch of high schoolers making fun of a volunteer who can’t draw a good representation of the Adidas logo during a lesson on branding.
 
Check out more photos from EY Connect Day here! To get involved with EY Connect Day next year, or to volunteer with another program, contact us here.
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  • "JA activities support our college and career readiness expectations as they bridge connections to real world experiences and professions" – Hazel Cruz, PS 83

    -Junior Achievement Teacher
  • "I learned that running a business includes a lot of work! You have to know how to run it, how much to pay your employees and much more." – PS 83

    -Junior Achievement Student
  • "Guess what? A volunteer from Junior Achievement came to my class! I learned that cities are places to live, eat, work and play." – Justin, PS 83

    -Junior Achievement Student
  • "Junior Achievement has given me my blueprint for success in college and beyond. JA has allowed me to grow as a student, entrepreneur, and as a future college student." – Kaiyell Pettie

    -Junior Achievement Alumnus
  • "JA volunteers give children tangible examples of the unlimited opportunities available to them."

    -Junior Achievement Volunteer

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